With the recent 3-day weekend, I thought I would tackle an item on my project list – installing a solid state drive (SSD). Many newer laptops have these drives, but I wanted to put one in my Windows desktop. I had put this off for a number of reasons ranging from time to complexity. I thought the project would be riskier and more time consuming. It was neither. One benefit to waiting was that the price of solid state drives dropped. But, I really should’ve made the switch sooner.
My biggest concern was I thought this would be complicated. I’d been working on a stressful project and was fearful that if the installation didn’t work, I would lose time restoring from backups. Yes, rule #1 is always make a backup even if you never use it. And, I was somewhat hesitant because this involved hardware. I knew I had to crawl under my desk and disconnect all the accessories and open the PC.
Benefits of SSD
SSD got my interest several years ago when my web host started switching from traditional hard disk drives (HDD) to the newer solid state drives. Despite the expense, they realized the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. There were 4 benefits I could see by switching.
It was taking longer for my Windows PC to boot up and access files. The delay was noticeable and it was bugging me to the point I was considering a new PC. Now, just about everything is faster from bootup to backups.
Unlike HDDs, these SSDs have no moving parts so they are less susceptible to damage. You don’t have to worry about the PC getting jostled while data is being written to a platter. And, you don’t have to worry about defragmenting the drive. Most of the research I did said not to defragment them and let Windows do it when and if necessary. In certain cases, Windows does do defragmentation.
After awhile with HDDs, you learn the sounds your hard drive makes when accessing data. I’ve never liked the sound except it is a feedback mechanism to know the PC is doing something. I much prefer the silence of a SSD. It’s one less distraction.
4. Energy Efficient
Because there are no moving parts, the drives consume less energy and are cooler.
Starting the Project
In my scenario I was replacing an existing SATA hard drive with a SATA SSD. That meant I already had most of the needed cables. If you’re not sure what type of hard drive you have, you can download Speccy. https://www.piriform.com/speccy. It’s a free software program from the folks who make CCleaner.
The basic steps were:
- Researching which drive I wanted
- Buying the drive and accessories
- Cloning data from my current hard drive
- Installing the new drive
- Optimizing the new drive
The first part of the project was determining what I needed. Your choice of drive also influences what else you may need. Some manufactures include migration software and cables. The second part of the project, or execution, took me about 5 hours. The vast majority of this was cloning the data from the original hard drive to the SSD. In retrospect, I should’ve done that step at night while I slept.
Researching with Amazon Reviews
One thing I like about Amazon is they typically have more reviews which makes it easier to do research. The reviews can be helpful in spotting things from failures to warranty issues. You can also ask questions to the public and then answers can be quite good.
I find the reviews more valuable now as you can filter them by “verified purchasers” and even keyword. I don’t see this on all products so there may be a minimum number before it shows.
To filter Amazon reviews,
- Go to your product page
- Click the link that says See all customer reviews
- You’ll then get a filter box which allows you to select verified purchase only.
- Add your filter criteria
The first item I settled on was the Samsung 850 EVO – 500GB – 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD. I felt comfortable with the specs and reviews. I was also glad that it included the data migration and optimization software CDs. The price is about $155.00
The downside is this Samsung model doesn’t include a transfer cable needed for cloning. If you’re not cloning a drive, this item isn’t necessary. I opted to get the StarTech USB 3.0 to 2.5″ SATA III Hard Drive Adapter Cable w/ UASP – SATA to USB 3.0 Converter for SSD/HDD. The price is about $11.00
The last item I needed was a mounting kit. The new SSD is narrower than my existing hard drive. All the bays in my PC are 3” wide so I needed a kit to accommodate the narrower drive. I settled on the Sabrent 2.5 Inch to 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Disk Drive Mounting Kit. The cost is about $11.00
Cloning and Installing the Drive
Samsung makes the setup process easy. In fact, their instruction poster is just images and starts with inserting the installation CD and following along. I then connected the USB hard drive adapter cable to my PC and the SSD. I started the transfer which took about 4 hours. In retrospect, I should’ve done this step at night when I didn’t need to use the computer.
Once the drive was cloned I disconnected the SSD and secured it to the new mounting bracket. Before installing it into the desktop, I took the desktop outside where I could shoot it with compressed air to clean the insides of the PC.
The hardest part for me was getting the new mounting bracket in and securing it. The inside of my desktop is cramped and it was harder for me to maneuver the screwdriver in certain places.
The last part was booting up the PC and using the Samsung Magician software to optimize the drive based on your needs.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the results. The speed improvement is dramatic.